You'd given up on Temple's NCAA chances? It's OK to admit that. There was no reason to give the Owls a second NCAA thought after a gruesome December-into-January stretch had nullified a strong start and had Temple fans grabbing pitchforks.
Let's catch up here. Five W's in six games, six in the last eight, put 13-10 Temple back into the far reaches of the NCAA conversation. More work to do? Loads. We could conjecture about what needs to be done, but let's bring in the man who invented the bracketology business and spends too many waking hours figuring out the March Madness field.
As of Tuesday morning, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi — also, official bracketologist of City Six Observations — had Temple at No. 76, the eighth team out of the field. (Lunardi always has a Last Four in, First Four Out, Next Four Out. Temple is last among Next Four Out.)
Emailing his latest calculations, Lunardi said of the Owls: "Surprised they are in that good of shape." (Same here.) Lunardi added he has SMU at No. 77, just in case you don't think a 66-64 Owls victory in Dallas mattered.
"Unusual resume, to say the least,'' Lunardi said. "Equal parts very good and equally bad losses. Need to add to the former while completing the latter," of which they are at their limit, if not over!
Temple's remaining schedule provides opportunities. While a Feb. 15 win at Wichita State would be massive, it's not the crucial game. The rest of the games might be more so, with the need to avoid more bad losses. And Lunardi said the biggest remaining game is against Houston, Feb. 18 at home — "giving them a chance to go 2-1 against AAC bubble."
One more thing, Lunardi added:
"They need to be the biggest Auburn and Clemson fans in America!!"
Villanova's season-long encampment at the Wells Fargo Center, while the Pavilion gets renovated, provides some interesting data.
There's a narrative out there that younger Villanova alumni are shut out of buying season tickets because older alums have them all and the Pavilion isn't big enough to accommodate the entire fan base. That narrative might be true. This season's ticket sales indicate, however, that there aren't thousands and thousands waiting to see 'Nova. At least they're not showing up all the time this season, with the Wildcats on top of the national polls for much of it.
Through the first seven home games played at Wells Fargo this season, Villanova has averaged 11,442 customers. That's the lowest average they've experienced in games played there. (Next lowest: 13,041 for four games in 1997-98.) Not surprising since you get the marquee opponents and lesser ones, Saturday games and midweek 6:30 starts.
Last season, with the team coming off a national title, four Villanova games at Wells Fargo averaged 18,772.
Let's argue that the Wildcats' true base is 11,442. Nothing to sneeze at. And Villanova would love to make the Pavilion that big — that desire goes back to when the place was built — but Radnor never would allow it, not even worth discussing. The new place won't have any more seats. It will be a tougher ticket. And attendance for the Wells Fargo games will rise again.
La Salle has won three of its last five, but this week is an opportunity for the Explorers to prove they can win a road game, with trips to George Washington on Wednesday and Saint Louis on Saturday. The Explorers have taken three road games to OT, but have only win to show for it, in the first of the season at Penn.
I was at Drexel last month when the Dragons got taken out by William & Mary, losing by 22 points. W&M was, in fact, 22 points better that day. So all Sunday's game, Drexel at William & Mary, does is confirm there's no predicting what you're going to get from this year's Dragons. Lately, you've gotten the Very Very Good Dragons, on a four-game win streak, the latest a 91-79 upset in Williamsburg, knocking William & Mary out of a tie for first with Charleston in the Colonial. (Drexel earlier had beaten Charleston at the DAC.) A Jan. 27 victory over Northeastern also has kept the Huskies out of first in the wide-open CAA. If you had Drexel at 5-7 and 11-14 overall right now, you should replace Lunardi.
From Saturday's St. Joe's-La Salle game, taken 81-78 by the Explorers: St. Joe's made 12 of 25 threes but 12 of 33 twos? La Salle had 20 assists to two turnovers? One turnover by a starter, one by a sub. One turnover in the first five minutes, one in the last 17 seconds. La Salle point guard Pookie Powell had 11 assists and no turnovers — except for the ones he caused, with three steals.
A massive reason Penn was on top of the Ivy League going into Tuesday's Princeton game obviously was the bench contribution of Caleb Wood, who had scored in double digits in four straight games. Everyone knows Wood is a long-distance shooter, but that knowledge has made the guard's efforts from inside the three-point arc more effective. In Penn's last nine games, Wood has made 19 of 26 two-point shots.